Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back At It For A Bit (Part 1)

Well, I'm back to writing, not so much cooking. Last week, with it being Thanksgiving and TS and I were in Omaha with TS's family I didn't do much cooking. However, when I came home on Sunday all I wanted was a good dinner. I made my easy shrimp and pasta on Sunday. Monday, all I wanted was fish, again. I made tilapia. Tuesday, I babysat my neighbor's two boys and ate pizza with them. Tonight I helped TS put prepared food from Kowalski's in the oven. That, in a nutshell is what I have eaten this week. Here are the recipes. The recipes will be posted in a series of posts.

First, I cannot believe I have not put my shrimp and pasta recipe up here. This is my go to, quick, easy dinner that I make when I cannot think of what to make. This recipe evolved from a chicken and pasta recipe I used to make for myself when I was in law school. I have moved on to shrimp, but the base recipe is the same. You make shrimp, pasta and whatever frozen vegetable you have and mix it all together with tomato sauce. Well, that is the base recipe. Here is how I made shrimp and pasta on Monday night:

Shrimp and Pasta

18 frozen shrimp (large)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp basil
1 c. chopped frozen broccoli
1/2 c. tomato sauce (I think I mentioned earlier I use Newman's Organic Tomato Basil)
1 package gnocchi

1. Set the water for the gnocchi to boil
2. while the water is heating up, put the olive oil, garlic, and onion in a large pan and cook for 2 mins stirring constantly
3. Then add the green pepper, cayenne pepper, basil and broccoli to the pan and cook
4. put the gnocchi in the pot, once the water starts to boil, and cook until all the gnocchi floats to the top. Simultaneously, to putting the gnocchi in the pot, put the shrimp into the pan with the broccoli. Cook the shrimp until it is all pink
5. Once the gnocchi has cooked, drain out all the water except about 1/2 c. Add the 1/2 c. of pasta water and the gnocchi to the pan with the shrimp
6. Add pasta sauce to the pan, stir all ingredients together and cook for 2 mins.
7. Serve with fresh parmeasan cheese if you desire.

The whole meal takes no more than 20 mins to cook and it is healthy. It is a staple in my house. Healthy staples are always good. So... Here's go good healthy, quick eating!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eating Out - Coupon Style and Old Cookbooks

This weekend The Spouse and I decided to use 2 of our online coupons (LivingSocial and CrowdCut - therefore not Groupon so I cannot call them that) for two restaurants we rarely go to: Jax Cafe and Boca Chica. It was a great use of our Friday and Saturday night. Friday night was Jax and Saturday was Boca Chica.

I love the online coupon deals. I usually buy them months before I actually use them. So when I do get around to using them it feels like I have just received a gift card for each restaurant. I think I bought the Jax's coupon back in April and Boca Chica I think I bought a month or so ago. Seeing how I cannot remember, that must mean I bought it more than two weeks ago.

Jax Cafe is an old-time steak restaurant in NE Minneapolis. Some of the best steaks in the area. The steaks are always cooked perfectly and served with a baked potato. What I love about this restaurant is the waitresses understand the meaning of taking your time eating. The waitress first came over and asked us what our drink and appetizer order was. Once we placed that, we took our time enjoying our drinks (wine for me, old fashioned for TS). A little while later, basically right before the appetizer came, the waitress came back and asked for our dinner order. We both got the filet mignon with a side of asparagus. Our appetizer came out (their famous crab rolls) and it was yummy, crab, cheesy goodness. It was delightful. We finished that and then waited, what I felt was the perfect amount of time to savor the appetizer but then get a bit hungry for dinner. Right at that perfect point, our steaks came out - perfectly medium-rare. The asparagus was served with a side of hollandaise sauce. Mmm. We ate our meals and then came the dessert tray. All the desserts looked fantastic, but we were so stuffed from the crab rolls and the steak we decided against dessert. It was a lovely relaxing dinner for a Friday night. I love date night with TS.

Saturday night we ventured through the snow (yes the first accumulating snow of the year) to South St. Paul. We were headed that way to take Ish out to dinner. Since he is in St. Paul we normally stay on the east side. He LOVES (and so do we) Mexican food. Boca Chica is probably one of the better Mexican restaurants in the area. I was smart this time (or thought I would be) and made a reservation for us. Normally, when we go to Boca Chica on a Saturday night we wait an hour for a table. We got to the restaurant and the parking lot was virtually empty; so, no need for a reservation. I know, had I not made the reservation, we would have wished we had one. Anyway, I had the tilapia with mango salsa, TS had enchilladas and Ish had shrimp diablo. Ish really likes spicy food, but the shrimp diablo was so spicy he was crying. He said he loved this food because it warmed him up on a cold day. My tilapia was very enjoyable and I will probably order it again. Needless to say, it was the perfect food for a cold, snowy night.

Overall, a weekend of good dinners. While TS and I went out to dinner both nights, I decided to make breakfast on Saturday. Here is where it gets interesting. If you don't know, I collect old cookbooks. I don't mean my mom's cookbooks, but more along the lines from my grandmother and earlier. I have my grandmother's Settlement Cookbook. It was given to her as a wedding shower gift. It contains just about any recipe you may want, including pancakes. Yes, I made pancakes from a recipe book that is almost 80 years old. See, I have given up buying pancake mix because I am determined to learn how to make the worlds best pancakes from scratch. The pancakes I made this weekend were good, but a little to dense for me. I like my pancakes light and fluffy. Since, the recipe was not up to my standards for great pancakes, I am not going to post it. But one thing I am going to try soon are the Bohemian pancakes. TS's grandfather is of Bohemian descent and I would love to treat him to what the Settlement Cookbook says are "Bohemian" pancakes.

I love cooking! And here is to good cooking!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Real Life

In real life, people don't have time to blog every day. I lead a real life. I make dinner for friends, spend time with them, then don't have enough time to blog at night. I love making dinner for friends. I do have a policy (which no one actually takes me up on) that if you call me in the morning and tell me you want to come over for dinner, and if I am not doing anything at night, I will make dinner for you. I love cooking for other people.

On Monday night, I was really happy when I got home and TS said Dan was coming over for dinner. It was a relief! I was planning on making meatloaf and I knew I would have more leftovers than I know what to do with if Dan did not come over. Now I just have a little bit of leftover meatloaf. I think this was the first meatloaf I made in years. I actually think the last time I made a meatloaf I lived in an apartment. The recipe I took from Alton Brown, and then did it my way, kind of. It was more, I couldn't find the two types of meat, so I used ground beef and ground pork sausage. Otherwise, I made the recipe found here. Remember, I used GROUND BEEF and GROUND PORK SAUSAGE. Dan and TS both loved the meatloaf. Both went back for seconds. I served it with homemade mashed potatoes and carrots. It was truly an American meal. I even think Dan had a coca-cola with it. All American meal with some all American Vikings v Packers football.

Tuesday night, I had planned for our friends Claire and Andrew to come over for dinner. The last time they came over and I made dinner I made potato tacos (they were amazing), but they were SOOO spicy Andrew was literally sweating and saying "they are so good, I can't stop eating them, but they are SO spicy." It was hilarious. They were troopers and plowed through a new recipe with me. So, last night, they enjoyed another new recipe. This recipe I followed exactly and it makes a lot of food. We enjoyed Shepherd's-Style Rigatoni. Not spicy, like the potato taco's, but it was flavorful. I served it with steamed asparagus. We finished off the meal with an Apple Galette with cinnamon ice cream.

As you can see, when I do not make recipes on my own, I turn to the internet. My favorite sites for recipes are and I actually don't watch the food network. I would rather read a cookbook. But I do enjoy the recipes on the website. Saveur is a magazine which I get every month. Their recipes are usually not for the beginning cook, normally. The recipes are ethnically based and use ingredients which are local to the specific culture. I love challenging recipes, when I have time to cook. See, when you tell me you are coming over for dinner, you will get a good meal.

I love cooking for people and eating with people who enjoy good food. Here's to good eating!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When You Know It is Good

TS has a phrase for when food I make is really good: "You can add this to the rotation." This means I can make it on a regular basis and he will not get bored by it. This also means I could make it once a week and he would be more than happy. Tonight when we finished dinner TS said "You can add this to the rotation." What was he talking about? Broccoli Mac & Cheese.

I have made this before, but this time I got the recipe right. It is cheesy yummy goodness. With the right amount of spice, crispy breadcrumb topping, and adding your vegetable.

Broccoli Mac & Cheese

1/4 onion, finely chopped
4 cups macaroni
16 oz bag frozen, chopped broccoli
6 oz. shredded Italian Cheese mix
1.5 oz (1/3 c. flour)
3 c. skim milk
3/4 c. fat-free half and half
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
dash nutmeg
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs

1. Put pasta on to boil for 7 mins., add broccoli during last 3 mins of cooking
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While pasta is cooking:
-- cook onion in olive oil in a large pot (dutch oven) for 1 min
-- take onion off the heat and add milk, stirring thoroughly
-- in a separate bowl whisk half & half and flour
-- add flour mixture to onion/milk mixture, set back on medium high heat and cook until boils, stirring frequently
-- when boils, cook for 1 more minute, continuously stirring, then remove from heat
-- add cheese, red pepper, black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, garlic powder and nutmeg to milk mixture
3. Drain pasta/broccoli mixture and add to cheese sauce
4. Pour pasta mixture into 9x13 pan (previously coated with cooking spray)
5. sprinkle bread crumbs on top of pasta mixture
6. bake for 18 mins.
7. After baking, let sit for 5 mins so it can come together.

In this recipe you do end up doing a lot at the same time, so read this recipe completely before you start. Also, have all your ingredients measured and ready to go before you start. This will make things go smoothly. All in all, I think dinner took me about 40 mins to make tonight, with the last 20mins or so with it in the oven.

I love dinners that end with me putting them in the oven. This gives me the chance to clean my kitchen while it is baking. Which means, when dinner is over all I have to do is stick the plates and cups we used into the dishwasher, then I can go about my merry way.

This meal made enough food for us to eat very generous portions for dinner (we were both REALLY hungry) and still have enough for 4 more servings. Leftovers are great.

All in all, this dinner was quite the success! So, here's to good eating!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Back Again

I'm back in the City again after going to my friend Sarah's wedding. She looked so beautiful! All brides look beautiful, but she looked exceptionally beautiful. Congrats Sarah and Ross. I am so happy for you.

Now that I have told you about my weekend, I am back to cooking. Tonight I had some time to actually make a new type of chili. The good thing about chili is you get it all in the pot then you let it cook without doing anything for an hour. That is an hour you can do whatever you want with. Tonight's chili was Chorizo Chipotle Chili.

Chorizo Chipotle Chili

6.5oz Chorizo links, sliced thin
1 lb ground beef
3/4 onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can chipotle chilies in adobo sauce (chop 4-6 chilies from can depending on how spicy you want it)
3.5 cups beef broth
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 c. dry red wine
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp masa flour

1. In a dutch oven (large stock pot) brown chorizo sausage (cook about 3 mins), take out of pot and set aside
2. brown ground beef in dutch oven, then take out of pot and set aside
3. saute chopped garlic and onion for 3-4 mins
4. add chorizo, ground beef, chopped chipotle chili, cumin, cocoa powder, sugar, salt, coriander, oregano to garlic and onion. stir.
5. add tomato paste, red wine and beef broth to mixture. Stir for 1 min.
6. set on stove until it boils, once boils, turn down the heat and simmer for 1 hr.
7. add masa flour to mixture 1/2 tbsp at a time, then add black beans and pinto beans to mixture then simmer for 30 mins.

We served this with corn bread and shredded Mexican cheese (cheddar cheese would work too). TS says that this was "amazing." This recipe made enough chili for at least 6 servings. I have a feeling I will be making this recipe again later on this winter. Plus, I now have masa flour to make home made tortillas. I'm sure I will be trying that soon! So, here's to good eating!